John Bauters’ ‘Tough on Crime’ Pivot: Will it help him advance in County Supervisor Race?

9 mins read

On the eve of the March 5th Primary and mail-in ballots already in hand, you may have observed that Emeryville Councilmember and Alameda County District 5 Supervisor candidate John Bauters is leaning into a curious message: Public Safety.

Bauters, best known locally for his focus on bicycle Infrastructure and implementing YIMBY-friendly policies, has never publicly prioritized public safety in the traditional sense of the word.

Bauters is likely relying on polling data that supports that public safety, particularly in Oakland, is a large concern of voters.

We need change and new leadership. We need John Bauters

Bauters‘ campaign has been blasting a video spot targeting residents within the district. In the ad, the narrator touches on familiar themes including crime, “solving” homelessness and affordable housing.

As supervisor, Bauters will invest in public safety, and emergency response, Support small businesses, and solve our homelessness crisis.” the 30-second ad touts.

What Bauters actually means by “Public Safety” might not be what you think. In fact, his ad never shows police officers instead showing firefighters whose union endorsed him and have thus far donated $15,000 toward his campaign. A union whose budget he will help oversee if elected to the Board of Supervisors.

Crime, Homelessness and Affordable Housing: What the Record Shows

Crime, homelessness and affordable housing are things the city has had mixed success on during Bauters’ time on council which began in 2016.


Homelessness in Emeryville, like most East Bay Communities, spiked during Bauters tenure. This number recently retreated but only after the city implemented so-called “hostile architecture” methods and local agencies implemented sweeps of the Home Depot, Powell Street underpass and the Nady Site encampments.

Homeless and Fire Services are becoming more intertwined with a spiking percentage of service calls by Oakland and Alameda County fire departments to Homeless camps and RVs. Fire departments are increasingly being tasked with non-emergency homeless outreach programs (Oakland’s “MACRO” being one example).


Bauters also continues to tout his success with affordable housing. Bauters in fact succeeded in helping pass a $50 million bond measure in 2018. The measure is still at least a year away from producing a single new unit of affordable housing. The first project to be built with this money, a supportive housing project on San Pablo Avenue for the homeless, came in at an eye-popping one million dollars per unit. Many are rightfully questioning if we can ever truly make a dent in the affordability and homeless crisis with this price-tag.

The YIMBY policies he’s fast-tracked (eliminating parking minimums, upzoning, etc.) that he claims will spur housing creation, including inclusionary units, have had almost no impact as Emeryville’s current housing pipeline is negligible.


Reported Crime totals have gone up in 5 of the 7 years Bauters has been on council. While Bauters and council cannot be solely blamed for Emeryville’s crime rate, his attitudes toward crime are more telling.

Bauters has been elusive about publicly addressing crime within the city and was roundly criticized for his flaccid stance when Emeryville was ravaged by looters in 2020 and more recently as Mayor following last years’ Bay Street “Mall Brawl.”

A “Career Politician” in the making?

Bauters’ campaign ad, when shared across our social media channels, was largely panned by constituents.

“It’s unfortunate to see career politicians use the same playbook knowing they don’t mean and can’t deliver anything they campaign about,” noted one commenter. “So it’s hollow words.”

“He is nothing more than an empty smile. He has been on city [council] for how many years in Emeryville and the city has gone to absolute sh*t.” replied another commenter.

Others praised Bauters’ responsiveness to their issues and taking time to meet with them.

Racking up Endorsements … and Donations

Bauters has locked in a long list of endorsements from fellow elected officials including State Assemblymember Mia Bonta and State Senator Scott Wiener.

His most impressive nonpartisan endorsement might be from The East Bay Times Editorial Board that typically value capability and fiscal prudence over idealogical purity.

The East Bay Times cited Bauters’ experience and stances on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District board and the Alameda County Transportation Commission for their nod.

Funding: Cannabis, Crypto, Public Unions & Public Utilities

Bauters is among the candidates leading the pack in donations with over $200,000 raised thus far according to the latest fillings on the county website.

In addition, paperwork for a recipient committee titled “Bauters for a Safer East Bay” was filed with the county back in December. The committee lists former councilmember and Bauters’ ally Dianne Martinez as its principal officer and has thus far received $23,500 in donations.

Bauters largest donations outside of family members have come from three sources: Cannabis, Crypto and Public Employee Unions.

— Cannabis affiliated companies including Teranomic Software (affiliated with Ohana Cannabis who operate Emeryville’s only licensed dispensary), Canntinas (A Sacramento dispensary with a business address in Emeryville), and Gardens Inc. Combined, these companies and employees have donated a whopping $38,000 to his campaign thus far.

— Employees of the crypto exchange Coinbase have donated a combined $20,000.

— The Alameda County Firefighters Union (IAFF Local 55) have donated a combined $20,000 to Bauters campaign and his recipient committee.

— Bauters for a Safer East Bay received $10,000 from PG&E which raised some eyebrows.

There have been many conversations whether public sector unions, including police unions and city employees, should be allowed to influence elections where they stand to benefit monetarily and if this represents a conflict of interest.

Independent journalist Zac Haber has been doing a comprehensive job of tracking donations for all races on his Substack account.

D.A. Pamela Price, Criminal Justice Reform Efforts & “Defunding” Police

Leading candidates seem to be attempting to distinguish themselves with their stance on topics like “defunding” police, support for embattled District Attorney Pamela Price and controversial Criminal Justice Reforms.

Bauters has proven to be a skilled politician always leaving himself an “out” on contentious policy measures. When previously asked about “defunding the police,” he danced around the question saying it was a “prudent question to ask”.


Bauters was quick to express opposition to the recall of embattled D.A. Pamela Price at a recent Wellstone Democratic club debate but then rebuked an endorsement of her anti-recall efforts.

“I did not support Pam Price in either of her bids for DA in 2018 or 2022,” Bauters told Tavarez in his newsletter. “I generally disfavor recalls because the process comes at an immense cost to taxpayers.”

Price, a former public defender, has aligned herself with police abolitionist groups like the Anti Police-Terror Project and vehemently supports criminal justice reforms that many have blamed for a surge in crime in the county.

Wellstone ultimately provided Nikki Bas with their endorsement.


Proposition 47 is also being targeted for enabling rampant property crime and recidivism. Bauters is employed by The Alliance for Safety & Justice which is one of the leading criminal justice reform organizations in the country and lists Prop. 47 and Prop 57 (early parole release) to their credit.

Bauters has removed reference to his association with the organization in his X bio and his campaign website makes no reference to his involvement with them. Their website lists him as the Arizona State Director but Bauters has publicly touted his role as a “victims‘ advocate.”

Bauters is listed at the Arizona State Director on the Alliance for Safety and Justice website.

What Does the Alameda County Board of Supervisors do?

Few follow the Board of Supervisors closely or understand its impact on the region. Duties of the Board of Supervisors include administering county budgets, approving contracts, appointing officers and many other administrative duties.

Choosing an effective Supervisor is important as being elected can amount to a lifetime position in a district where one party dominates (outgoing Supervisor Keith Carson served 30+ years and was never seriously challenged).

The winner will join the Board of five that also includes D1 Supervisor David Haubert, D2 Supervisor Elisa Márquez (appointed following the sudden passing of Richard Valle and currently running unopposed), D3 Supervisor Lena Tam and the winner of the D4 race between incumbent Nate Miley and challenger Jennifer Esteen.

The importance of the role could drastically increase should voters pass State Proposition 1, which will boost funding for mental health & substance abuse services. Staff & Supervisors will be tasked with procuring and allocating the funds from the measure for the county.

“This county does not have a good record of executing,” candidate Ken Berrick noted in a recent East Bay Insiders podcast [21:00]. “We gotta be ready to go when it passes so we get our share.”

The County Board of Supervisors is also blamed for inking a terrible deal with the Athletics giving them control of the Coliseum site without a contingency that the team remain in Oakland.

“Playing Not To Lose?”

“Everyone, except Chris Moore, is playing not to lose.” observed East Bay Insiders Journalist and Podcaster Steven Tavarez. “[Bauters] speaks in page-long paragraphs, Oakland Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas avoids mentioning public safety at all costs, and Berkeley Councilmember Ben Bartlett acts like he has something to do.”

Moore, as Tavarez implies, is going on the offensive by calling out the other candidates that he blames for their city’s woes including crime, homeless and lack of accountability.

An auditor by profession, Moore has promised to bring more transparency to the board that spends billions of taxpayer money often without metrics of success.

Analysis: Can Bauters Win?

There are no reliable polling data for these races but Bauters must be considered among the favorites to advance to the November general election.

Fortunato Bas would seem the other likely candidate to advance based on endorsements and fundraising. She’s also the preferred candidate of labor and their influence in the district should never be underestimated. But Bas is clearly burdened by the current dysfunction of Oakland and has more political baggage than Bauters with her unpopular defund the police stance.

Bas presides over a city where criticism is a bigger part of the job and politics are a bloodsport so she may be more “battle tested” than Bauters should the two face off. Emeryville council meetings are scantly attended and criticism generally comes from a single source. One of Bauters’ greatest assets might be his relative lack of familiarity to voters and being subjected to far less regional media scrutiny.

Should voters reject Bas’ message, Ben Bartlett seems a likely candidate to fill this void with Chris Moore and Ken Berrick as a possible dark horses. Berrick possesses the qualifications and even received the endorsement of former Governor Jerry Brown although he may have trouble breaking through in a crowded field.

Clockwise from upper left: Ben Bartlett, Nikki Fortunato Bas, John Bauters, Ken Berrick, Lorrel Plimier, Gerald Pechenuk, Chris Moore & Gregory Hodge.

Moore is positioning himself as the only viable candidate willing to go against the grain on important matters prioritizing better funded and staffed police departments. He’s also been an outspoken critic of Pamela Price and is actively involved in her recall effort.

Moore is also campaigning as an independent in one of the deepest blue, pro-union districts in the nation and it seems unlikely that voters will check the boxes of anyone without a “D” next to their name.

Hodge (a former OUSD President), Plimier (a political newcomer) and Pechenuk (a vocal Trump supporter), seem to be long shots.

The top two vote getters will face off in the November General Election unless a candidate receives a majority of votes. With nine candidates on the ballot, this seems unlikely.

Retiring Supervisor Keith Carson has yet to “show his hand” on who he will throw his support behind likely awaiting the results from this primary. His endorsement could tip the scales on which candidate ultimately get elected.

Candidate Websites:

Ben Bartlett (Berkeley Councilmember/Parent)

Nikki Fortunato Bas (City Councilmember/Mother)

John J. Bauters (Victims Advocate/Councilmember)

Ken Berrick (Member Board of Education 3rd Trustee Area)

Gregory Hodge (Non-Profit Executive)

Chris Moore (Community Volunteer/Accountant)

Gerald Pechenuk (No Ballot Designation)

Lorrel Plimier (Attorney/Data Scientist)

Omar Farmer has verbally withdrawn from the race but will still appear on the ballot.

The Berkeley Scanner has published their comprehensive county election guide that is worth reviewing. The League of Women Voters has posted a replay of their candidate forum on their YouTube channel.

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.


  1. Bauters’ fingerprints are all over prop 47. Can remember him touting it on several occasions before and during his tenure on the city council.

    He has never taken the heat for the city’s $50 million boondoggle affordable housing bond. The fact that he’s never denied the cost per unit was going to be in the high six figure, and that the money was never going to be enough to build the 500 units. Oh and when were artists a protected class?

    He’s always been angling as a career politician. From his use of data when he ran for city council to his ignoring it when it came to the city council’s decision on implementing the minimum wage ordinance.

    The only redeeming thing from his seeking the supe’s position is that it may possibly rid the city of him, his pompousness, and his inflicting policies.


    I.P. Freely

  2. He will do anything to win including pivot and talk tough on crime even though he has tried to take a progressive stance or no stance on it while in office. Now that he has set up an independent expenditure committee through his ally which has already got funding coming in, he will use it to run negatives on Nikki to attack her progressive policies and stances. Union money vs. Dark Money.

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